Ireland flood
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Mary Keenan is distraught after visiting her house for the first time since the start of the floods in Caherlea, Claregalway
Towns and villages in the path of the River Shannon were unable to take a breath last night after the worst rainfall ever recorded.

Levels continued to rise on the lower and mid-Shannon where there has already been unprecedented increases in Lough Ree and Lough Allen.

Experts warned that a third of the rainfall normally experienced in one year had fallen in November alone so far -- and on land that was already "seriously saturated".

Lough Ree is being blamed for the latest floods that forced more than 100 residents out of their homes in Athlone in two days. Twenty-five homes had to be evacuated in Parnell Square in Athlone. Families were also taken from 22 houses in Deerpark and from eight houses in Iona Villas.

Taxi man and local councillor Kevin 'Boxer' Moran has been driving around Athlone in his four-wheel-drive vehicle rescuing people.

Speaking to the Irish Independent as he took one wheelchair-bound man from his home in Deerpark, Mr Moran said: "The sun is shining outside but the water is still very high and rising. The big thing that's worrying people is how long is this going to last? What are we going to do for Christmas? And where are we going to live?"

Ireland Flood
© Irish Independent
Cllr. Kevin 'Boxer' Moran helps to evacuate a family from Canal Road, Athlone , Co. Westmeath
Mr Moran got his first call for help at 2.15am yesterday from a man living on his own in Parnell Square. "He was worried because the power was flickering in the house.

"The next call was from somebody in Canal Walk. . . All night long, things like that were taking place. I've been checking on people all night."

Taxi drivers in Athlone gathered money to buy food basics before handing it out to locals. Volunteers organised a distribution point that they hope to open in Athlone Town Centre -- the new shopping outlet -- today.

Adam Lyons, who owns the 'Kin Khao' Thai restaurant on Abbey Lane, evacuated some of his staff from their accommodation in Deerpark yesterday.

"I've got five staff in one house and three tenants in other houses."

Mr Lyons is offering free meals to anyone displaced by the floods at his restaurant.

Councillor Gabrielle McFadden criticised unions for striking when there was a "genuine emergency".

Ireland flood
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Flood waters on Crow Street, Gort, Co. Galway
"Council workers have been Trojan but they weren't allowed to (on Tuesday) -- they were torn, it was terrible."

Nearby in south Leitrim and Roscommon there were calls for a government minister to visit.

Stabilised

On Monday night, water levels in the river at Carrick-on-Shannon rose by about two inches but defences were holding. The ESB said that water levels on Leitrim's Lough Allen remained close to record levels but had stabilised. It said it would not be discharging any additional water downstream.

In the lower Shannon region, homeowners were tense as weather worsened last night. The ESB released more water into the Shannon at Arndacrusha weir, increasing water levels by three inches. Last night, the ESB said there would be no increase in the current discharge rate. A new assessment will be carried out this morning.

Residents in high-risk areas of Limerick like Montpelier, O'Briensbridge, Clonlara, Shannon Banks and Castleconnel were warned by the local authority to remain alert. Sandbags were distributed to homes in villages along the lower Shannon yesterday, while there is growing concern that high tides and further heavy rainfall that is forecast will lead to increased flooding over the weekend.

In Carlow town, up to 200 people have had to leave their homes since the downpours started.
Ireland flood
© Irish Independent
People being ferried by tractor and trailer through the floods on Kennedy Street in Carlow